Watch the Mass here: http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/tickets/papal-mass/

On Sunday, September 27th, Pope Francis celebrated the closing mass for the World Meeting of Families 2015. The Mass was be held outside the Philadelphia Art Museum and was open to the public.

Pope Francis’ Homily at the World Meeting of Families Closing Mass

Today the word of God surprises us with powerful and thought-provoking images. Images which challenge us, but also stir our enthusiasm. In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. 

Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name!

Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did. For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected.

Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing “scandal” are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly “intolerable” scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit!
Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds.

 He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” 

To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith! Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). 

These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. 

Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. 

Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!

Pointedly, yet affectionately, Jesus tells us: “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13). How much wisdom there is in these few words! It is true that, as far as goodness and purity of heart are concerned, we human beings don’t have much to show! But Jesus knows that, where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity. So he reassures us: if only we have faith, the Father will give us his Spirit.

We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us! How many of us are here at this celebration! This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world. The world is tired of creating new division and new disasters. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us where prophets. If all of us would be open ot the miracles of love for the good of all families. 

I leave you with this question, for each one of you to respond to. In my home, do we yell, or do we speak with love and tenderness? This is a good way to recognize our love. 

Would that we could all be prophets! Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of other. And how beautiful it would be if everywhere, even beyond our borders, we could appreciate and encourage this prophecy and this miracle! We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God!

Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong! May God grant to all of us, as the Lord’s disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel!

The location has proved suitable in the past, with Pope Saint John Paul II celebrating Mass (with an estimated 400,000 attendees) on Logan Circle outside the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul in 1979.  There, the liturgy was imbued with the angelic sounds of the The Archdiocesan Choir, the Boy Choir, the Seminary Choir and the cathedral’s Collegiate Choir. Pope Saint John Paul distributed Communion to 150 specially selected members of the Archdiocese while roughly 3,000 priests moved into the large crowds and distributed the Eucharist to whomever they could reach.

The Benjamin Franklin parkway is a boulevard stretching roughly a mile long, populated with various attractions including the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Swann Memorial Fountain, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute,  the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Another highlight of the area, is it’s beautiful sculpture garden depicting various popular art pieces including The Thinker, Jesus Breaking Bread, The Rocky statue and more. During the warm weather, the area also serves as a place for concert venues, festivals, and public events.

Sources:
  • The Morning Call: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-pope-francis-visit-how-to-20141117-story.html#page=1
  • World Meeting of Families Organization Site: http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/about-the-event/2012-event-snapshot/
    http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/WMOF_Confirmation-of-Pope-Francis-Attendance_IDV_11-17-2014.pdf
  • Billy Penn: http://billypenn.com/2015/01/27/world-meeting-of-families-101-what-to-expect-when-the-pope-comes-to-philadelphia/
  • philly.com: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/The_last_papal_visit_to_Philadelphia_John_Paul_II_in_1979.html
    http://articles.philly.com/2014-11-19/news/56313252_1_last-papal-visit-catholics-pope-john-paul-ii
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin_Parkway
  • http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/about-the-event/event-access/